Sophie swept through the restaurant looking at it with new eyes. The eyes of its Chief Financial Officer rather than those of the owner’s wife. She stumbled slightly as she thought it and her new assistant slid a glance her way.
‘Way to go Devereux. Scaring the natives on your first day…’
“This is your office. Or rather your Boston office Mrs. Romanov,” the girl said with a smile. Sophie hadn’t really caught her name and now she was afraid to ask in case it offended her. She opened her mouth to say something but the girl beat her to it.
“If you need anything, I’m just down the hall,” she said.
Sophie nodded her head and smiled as the girl walked off with a perky confident high heeled walk that made Sophie grimace. She heaved a sigh and then opened the door to her office.
“Surprise!” a jumble of voices screamed at her and she jumped about a foot in the air before she realized it was only her family.
“Oh. Hey,” she said holding her hand to her heart which was pounding a mile a minute. She looked around the festively decorated room; it was a big office and there were balloons hanging everywhere which on closer inspection spelled the words ‘welcome’ in big inflated gray balloon letters. She smiled to see it and turned looking for her husband. He was at her desk grinning delightedly at her flanked by her brother Solomon and her grandfather Elijah. Her son Benjy completed the tableau as he sat grinning on her desk and smashing the stapler into the desk as if it was a hammer. She shook her head and stepped properly into the room only to be startled again when confetti started to fall on her from the ceiling.
“Oh!” she exclaimed, making one year old Benjy laugh even more. Solomon came up to her holding his arms out and kissed her cheek.
“My sister, the CFO. You done come up in the world gurl,” he said sounding faux impressed. Sophie snorted and returned his embrace.
“The balloons were your idea right?” she asked him soto voce.
“Hey! I heard that!” Tony protested as he tried to calm Benjy down; a losing proposition in Sophie’s opinion. She leaned around her brother to give him a sheepish smile.
“I mean I love you and all but you are not a balloons kinda guy Tony,” she said.
Tony opened his mouth to protest and then closed it again and shrugged, “Okay. You got me there. However, the flowers were all me.”
Sophie slid her eyes toward Katarina who was standing tentatively in the corner. The latter grinned and shrugged as if to say ‘well…mostly’. Sophie smiled but didn’t call Tony on it. It was the thought that counted after all.
“How was orientation?” Elijah asked.
“Short and sweet. I spent most of it sulking that you weren’t there Tony; but I see you had other plans,” Sophie said grinning.
Tony gave her a whimsical shrug and then picked up the baby from the table. He moved away from her desk and indicated she should sit. As she moved to her desk Solomon was fiddling with his Beats headphones and the theme for Mission Impossible filled the room. Sophie burst out laughing as she dropped into her chair. As she sat down, the music reached a dramatic climax and then switched off.
“Y’all are so crazy,” she said laughing.
“Don’t look at me; I’m just here for the free food,” Elijah said and as if on cue the door opened and various hostesses walked in carrying trays laden with various delicacies.
“Yes!” Sophie exclaimed, “I’m so hungry. Breakfast feels like it was ages ago.”
“Yeah all of three hours,” Solomon teased. Sophie flipped him off and went to see what they had brought. In addition to coffee, there was cake, muffins, sausage, finger sandwiches, fruit and croutons. Sophie’s hands fluttered above the selection, absolutely spoiled for choice. Solomon came to stand next to her picking up a plate and putting a little of everything on it. Then he handed it to her.
“Don’t front. You know you want it,” he said. She grimaced but took the plate going to pick up her son so they could share. The others served themselves and Solomon put on some jazz so they could eat in peace. Sophie had some questions for Tony about some things she’d noted that she felt could benefit from change and she opened her mouth to ask but then decided no; this was business it should be done in a proper business environment.
“Boss?” she said again. Tony continued to talk to Elijah about the price of gold and didn’t so much as flinch.
“Boss!” Sophie said louder, making Tony look around at her in bewilderment, “I need to make an appointment with you for a meeting. We have several things to discuss,” she said.
Tony stared at her in shock, “Like what?”
“That’s why I wanna have a meeting so we can discuss them in a proper business environment,” she said a bit prissily.
“Okay then. How about after this we go to my office?”
“Would you like anyone else to attend this meeting?” Tony asked looking like he was trying to suppress amusement.
“No. You and I are fine for now. If you feel someone else needs to be there of course that’s your prerogative.”
Tony turned to look at Elijah as if for explanation for his granddaughter’s behavior but he just shrugged and stuffed his mouth with sausages. Benjy seeing him, tried to do the same thing with mixed results. Katarina, seeing the mess he was making, hurried forward to pick him up from Sophie’s lap.
“Before he dirties your linens,” she said apologetically as she wiped excess sausage from Benjy’s face, “I should take this little guy home and let you guys work,” she said.
“I guess that’s our cue,” Elijah said standing up and Solomon followed his lead. He bent down and kissed his sister on the cheek, whispering ‘good luck’ into her ear before following their grandfather out the door. Sophie watched them go with a slight frown on her face.
“What?” Tony asked; he’d been leaning on her bookshelf watching her bid the family goodbye.
“Do Solomon and Katarina seem to be acting rather strange to you?” she asked.
“Hey. Young love. Who can understand that shit?” he asked straightening up and heading for the door, “I’m headed for my office, coming?”
“Lemme just make a few notes, I’m right behind you,” she said pulling a yellow notepad to her. On the first go-round as CFO of Tony’s group of companies she’d seen a few things that were running inefficiently and she had some suggestions on how to improve them. She bent her head, writing furiously. Tony watched her with a fond expression on his face and then left her to it.
“Hey,” Solomon said hurrying to catch up to Katarina, “Wait up.”
Katarina slowed down so he could come up beside her but didn’t look at him or acknowledge him in any way.
“Did I do something?” he asked.
Kat looked up at him. “Why would you think you did something if I don’t talk to you for two minutes?” she asked sounding exasperated. Solomon shrugged.
“Okay then fine. I’ll leave you alone,” Solomon said and lengthened his stride to walk ahead of her. When they reached the parking lot he didn’t wait for the car but headed for the gate.
“Where are you going?” Katarina called to him. Solomon pretended not to have heard her. She stopped and stared after him but Benjy began to fuss so her attention was diverted back to him. She sighed deeply and Elijah came up to pat her shoulder.
“The path of true love never did run smooth,” he intoned but his eyes could not hide their amusement.
“Huh. True love? I wonder,” Katarina said getting in the vehicle.
“What do you think it is?” Elijah asked her.
“Maybe I’m just the most accessible female he can find,” Kat said holding Benjy closer so he didn’t have to hear this conversation.
“What? And here I thought the whole concept of being in college was to be around smart young attractive women,” Elijah said faux shocked.
Katarina rolled her eyes. “You know what I mean,” she said fighting a laugh.
“Yes I do know what you mean. Do you know what you mean?”
Katarina stared at him, totally mystified by that statement. “I don’t understand.”
“Sure you do. You just don’t want to understand. It scares you so you’d rather hide behind this patina of ‘I know what’s best for him’. Well you don’t. He does. And he wants you. What do you want?”
Katarina color was very high and she stared at him hardly knowing where to start. “You say the most uncomfortable things Mr. Elijah,” she said at last.
“I speak true things and you know it. For some reason people are uncomfortable with truth. I’ve never understood why,” Elijah looked out of the window as if trying to puzzle it out. Katarina stared down at Benjy who stared back up at her as if to say ‘Don’t know nothin’. She fished out her phone from her pocket and sent Solomon a text.
I’m sorry. Please come home quick so we can talk.
She stared at her phone with absolute concentration, willing him to reply. When after five minutes there’s still nothing she felt a lump in her throat, wondering what she’ll do if this is it; he’s had it with her.
I have class.
Her phone beeped loudly, startling her; which in turn startled Benjy. He screwed up his face like he might potentially cry and then he thought better of it and subsided. She stared at her phone screen, trying to read something deeper in the words than just the fact that Solomon was at college. Did that mean she should stop bugging him or…? She looked up to find Elijah staring at her in bemusement.
“You’re doing it again,” he said with a smile.
Katarina tried to smile back but she was too anxious. “I used to be a grown woman,” she said wryly, “Sol makes me feel like a teenager again.”
“Mmm,” Elijah said and looked back out the window. They finished the rest of the ride in silence, dropping Elijah off at the jewelry store before heading home. She asked Samuel, who was driving them, to pass by Mikhail’s Emporium of Empirical Delights which belonged to Mikhail Petrov, Tony’s uncle. He’d been quite instrumental in extracting Katarina from a very bad marriage and getting her and Sam a position. She’d become close with Cara, his wife but she didn’t get a lot of time to see her. This would probably be a perfect time – nobody at home waiting on her; Sam was at school – and they would be delighted to see Benjy. Maybe in passing she could also get some advice from Cara about how to conduct oneself successfully in a relationship. She really hadn’t cared about such things before. Heaven knows she’d never expected to need the expertise…
“Baby is it too early to start redecoratin’?” Sophie sheepishly asked.
“How do you mean?” Tony asked, not exactly wary but cautious.
“Well, on taking a walk through your esta-“
“Our,” Tony interjected.
“Oh yes, on taking a tour of our establishment I noticed there are various areas that could do with streamlining to improve efficiency. I could be mistaken about how things run or there’s something I’m not getting so I need you to work with me on this.”
Tony perked up with a grin. “Sure thing. Where do you want to start?”
“Let’s start with kitchen storage and the placement of fridges.” Sophie said coming forward to sit on his arm rest and place her notes on the desk. Tony had difficulty concentrating with her this close and he suddenly understood why she’d said working together might be a problem.
“Er, darling. Yes I really appreciate the effort to streamline the business but I think you’d do better to work with the managers of each individual establishment on this; or some efficiency experts. I trust you and I know you’ll do a great job and it might go faster if you did all five establishments in one go; maybe get a team together and go crazy,” he said leaning back to look up at her.
Sophie pursed her lips in thought. “Okay. That sounds more…efficient than this. I should get acquainted with what kind of finances we’re working with before I draw up a team.” She said standing up and heading for the door. Tony stood up as well.
“Er honey?” he said.
Sophie stopped moving and turned to face him, “Yeah?”
“Don’t I get a kiss?” he asked.
Sophie smiled and came back to him plastering her whole body down his side and placing her hand on his chest, “Of course you do honey. As many as you want,” then she leaned forward and licked his bottom lip causing him to open it with a sigh. That’s all the incentive she needed to insert her tongue in his mouth for a gentle yet thorough exploration of the inner recesses of his mouth. It felt like probing his soul and Tony clung helplessly to her, letting her do as she pleased. When at last she released him, his eyes remained closed and he had a beatific smile on his face.
“Remind me again why working together is a bad idea?” he said.
Sophie smiled smugly and patted him gently on the chest and sauntering to the door, an extra swing to her step. Tony flopped back into his seat, smiling at nothing. As she left his office, her assistant knocked tentatively and opened the door a crack, peering in at him.
“Hello Mr. Romanov, can I come in?” she asked.
“Sure,” Tony said feeling very expansive. Her eyes fell to his mouth and he wondered if he had lipstick stuck on him. With an internal shrug he decided he didn’t care. It wasn’t like it was some clandestine affair he was having. That was his wife’s lipstick plastered on him like a brand. He smiled inwardly at the imagery that evoked and then looked up trying to give…er, what was her name again? all his attention.
“Sir, I was wondering if I could be reassigned. I don’t think your wife likes me very much,” she said to him. Tony stopped smiling and looked at her stonily.
“Why do you say that?” he asked. She shrugged and sighed.
“She was just really rude to me today and I don’t know how I’m supposed to work with her,” she said looking at him with puppy dog blue eyes. She leaned forward and her blouse fell open. He could see her bra peeking out where the blouse exposed her flesh and his eyes narrowed.
“Are you saying you can’t do the job?” he asked, “Just to be clear.”
His voice was cold and she couldn’t fail to notice that. She stepped back from his desk and clasped her hands anxiously in front of her skirt, “No sir. Of course not. I was just wondering if I could be reassigned. I know your assistant is going on maternity leave; maybe I could take her place.”
Tony stared at her, wondering what games she thought she was playing. He needed to get his lawyer in the room, maybe find out which laws applied in the case where he wished to dismiss an employee because she didn’t like his wife. He was aware those were flimsy terms but…
“Let me think about it, I’ll get back to you,” he said. Her smile was sunny as she thanked him and she left his office with a new spring in her step. He clicked on his intercom, summoning his assistant into the room.
“What was the name of the employee that just left my office?” he asked her.
Nancy his PA looked at the door as if she could still see the girl who’d been here, “I’m not sure. Shall I find out from HR?”
“Yeah. And get me her employee file while you’re at it would you?” he said.
“Right away Tony,” she said and headed out. Tony decided it was high time he got back to work; the business wouldn’t run itself.
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